This article examines the history of federal courts and the repeated efforts made over the centuries to reshape their jurisdiction to meet the press of continually growing caseloads. Identifying various methods used in the past to expand judicial capacities and restrict the influx of new cases, it addresses the fundamental normative question that should guide all efforts to reshape federal jurisdiction: What kinds of cases should the federal courts hear, and which kinds of cases should command the highest priority? The article argues that neither the Constitution nor any other authoritative legal source provide adequate answers to those questions. The challenge of meeting the problem of expanding caseloads is unavoidably political, it maintains, and all efforts at reform have been and will continue to be shaped largely by the nation’s evolving politics. The article draws on history to suggest some reasons to be hopeful about the possibilities for wise jurisdictional reform in the future, and it concludes by identifying the protection of individual rights against governmental actions as, in the words of Judge Jon O. Newman, the “pure gold” of the American judicial system and the most important function of the federal courts.
46 N.Y.L. Sch. L. Rev. 1-2